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5.0 out of 5 stars Assault and Disturbance, 4 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Los Olvidados [DVD] (DVD)
Los Olvidados ('The Young and the Damned', actually more correctly translated as 'The Forgotten Ones') is the 1950 social realist film that put Luis Bunuel back on the map as a film-maker. Having scandalized middle class sensitivities with the surrealist classics Un chien Andalou (1928) and L'Age d'or (1930) in Paris with Salvator Dali, he made a strange 'documentary' about a dismal Spanish village called Las Hurdes (1932) before vanishing for 15 years. His autobiography 'My Last Breath' (which I highly recommend) has him picking up odd jobs around Hollywood studios and even in MOMA in New York, but we can't really be sure what he did. He eventually fetched up in Mexico in 1946 where he went on to make two inconsequential dramas, Gran Casino (1948) and The Great Madcap (1949) which producer Oscar Dancigers saw. Bunuel already had another script ready, but Dancigers had no doubt seen some of the Italian Neo-realist films of the period like Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948), Roberto Rossellini's Rome Open City (1945) and Paisan (1946) and maybe even Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1942) and La Terra Trema (1948). He wanted Bunuel to make a film in the same social realist tradition about the slums of Mexico City. It's very interesting then that without Dancigers Bunuel probably would not have made his crunching study of the poor which took the 1951 Cannes audiences so by surprise and which got Bunuel the Best Director award. I say 'crunching' because the film is a tale of truly horrific dimensions. As Derek Malcolm says in the accompanying introduction with this DVD, watching it is akin to being punched in the guts for 80 minutes without let up, so despicable is the human behaviour Bunuel (and screenwriter Luis Alcoriza) put in front of us.

The film is about a group of destitute kids and their daily lives in a slum. Their leader is Jaibo (Roberto Cobo), a truly nasty piece of work who rejoins his gang after leaving juvenile jail. Aided by Pedro (Alfonso Mejia) he tracks down Julian (Javier Amezcula) who he thinks fingered him. In a scene designed to show the sheer propensity for evil kids have, Jaibo hides a rock in a sling, pretending his arm is broken only to beat his prey to death with it. Pedro is relatively innocent up to this point, but now he is an accomplice to murder and has to shut up to protect Jaibo who goes on to use him throughout the film. Bunuel truly rubs our noses in the sheer horror of everyday slum life here. No character is good in this world of survival at any cost. The gang beat up a blind street musician (Miguel Inclan), but when the man's stick is studded with a rusty nail which he uses to assail his attackers, and when he proves in any case to be a paedophile, it's hard to feel sympathy. The group mug a legless cripple, kicking his support trolley down a hill. Another (this time well dressed) paedophile tries to pick up Pedro. Pedro's mother (Stella Inda) makes clear she hates her son by beating and screaming at him at every chance. She even allows herself to be seduced by Jaibo in a truly toe-curling sequence, and eventually gets rid of her son by sending him to a 'farm school'. Here we meet the film's only truly sympathetic character, the school head (Francisco Jambrina) who starts to show Pedro the way out. Here we have a twist of a Dickensian variety. The head trusts Pedro with money to go and buy tobacco for him. The boy is intent on making good, but Bill Sykes (I mean Jaibo) catches him outside and he is once more mired in slum conditions. Dickens magics up a happy ending for his tale, not so with Bunuel. The ending here is as heart rending as any I have ever seen in the cinema. The sheer pitiless inhumanity is deeply shocking, all the more so as one of the characters involved (the beautiful girl, Alma Delia Fuentes) has been Pedro's closest friend throughout the film.

Italian Neo-realism was based on a desire to throw off the cosy artificiality of Hollywood melodrama. Suddenly the stress was on location shooting, semi-documentary methods, improvised dialog, working class themes, real people working in real places and the idea of poor people being victims of the environment that conditions them. Los Olvidados goes along with most of this. It opens with a voice over declaring the general theme of every city having it's slum area. This is similar to the way La Terra Trema begins for example. Certainly Bunuel does show the truth of environmental conditioning, but there's more to it than that. For Bunuel, people are people beyond the remit of their environment. They all have their own desires, material, sexual or otherwise as shown in two surreal dream sequences (the first portraying Pedro's guilt at being involved in murder and the second having Jaibo being sucked into a hole as he dies) and in the behaviour especially of the mother. Nothing 'conditions' her to hate her son or want to have sex with Jaibo - it's her desire pure and simple. Also lacking in Los Olvidados is the use of children as a mirror to show up the horror that surrounds them - the boy at the end of Bicycle Thieves, the boys who watch the priest's death at the end of Rome Open City. Here the kids are evil incarnate. And they grow up (if they survive that is) to be even worse, if that is possible. There is a harsh pitilessness here which though tempered by short scenes of affection (the girl running milk over her legs and responding to Pedro's gifts, the mother eventually showing concern) is deeply shocking nevertheless. Bunuel's Neo-realism is one of assault and disturbance and it gets to the route of reality much more directly and honestly than even the best of the Italian Neo-realist films.

I notice some reviews here see Los Olvidados as being Bunuel's best. Well, it's certainly one of them, but he did go on to make equally devastating attacks on the world as he saw it in El (1952), The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955), Nazarin (1958) and especially (the two films I think are really his greatest works) Viridiana (1961) and The Exterminating Angel (1962). Derek Malcolm relates that Bunuel's biggest regret was that he never made a film in Hollywood. I for one am glad he never did. Softening his critical edge for the sake of 'entertainment', such a prospect would have robbed us of some the greatest films cinema has to offer us. This DVD is very good by the way. The picture is clean, if not completely without blur when the camera pans quickly especially across dark scenes. A 'happy' alternative ending was unearthed and digitalized in 2002, but sadly it hasn't been attached to this DVD as an extra. As it is we only have the said Derek Malcolm introduction which I feel could have been deeper - less clips from the film and more critical analysis would have helped. I bought this for less than a fiver which makes it a sure recommendation.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Aug 2014 01:06:54 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Aug 2014 04:58:06 BDT
schumann_bg says:
Dear Film Buff, This is another excellent review - I particularly like the point you make about people being people 'beyond the remit of their environment'. This ambiguity is truer than the Marxist idea that we are all merely a product of economic forces. As I remember, Pedro has good in him, as I recall that scene where he is waylaid by the other boy and had singled it out as you have. And the dream sequences here have a poetry, suggesting some sense of grace even at the death of the awful boy. This seems much more humanist than what you find in some of his later films - Tristana, The Discreet Charm, even, dare I say it, The Exterminating Angel ... in spite of the harshness. The theme of the unloving mother also recalls the two films by Gerard Blain that were on my list, although I wouldn't describe those as a 'punch in the guts' - I think Bunuel's film also offers something that transcends this. I suppose also that youth on screen gives one a certain hope that things may improve, as they have - or should have - so much life before them, and are not completely entrenched and closed off to their imaginations.

Having said that, you also bring out the appalling behaviour of these youths - the scene with the legless cripple and also the blind man are both dreadful to watch - in the case of the first your horror is compounded by knowing that that man really was in that condition.

I'm always a bit torn on how much we want to see of horror and how much we want art to take us into something else. In one sense I feel that the real art can start where individuals are no longer embattled in a fight against injustice, bigotry, cruelty etc. It is important to know about these things, but if you imagine a society where these problems were resolved - which in the end nearly always come down to human greed or stupidity - then how do people live? Films that take on the worst subjects have an almost documentary value, but the ones it's easier to cherish show life beyond all the man-made suffering. This aesthetic aspect of film is what excites me the most - the part that is most akin to music, in fact. No doubt this is why you like Black Narcissus so much, and I, Pink Narcissus! - two very aesthetic films above all. I'd be interested to know your thoughts, knowing that you can take on the toughest films far more unflinchingly than I!

I have written my review of Ludwig, by the way ... about as different from Los Olvidados as can be imagined! As you know, I wouldn't have seen it had it not been for reading your review, so it has had a very positive effect on me, therefore it may well on others! I'm still amazed by it.

I hope you will want to exchange ideas about films still - I'm sure we have many more thoughts we can bounce back and forth (at a slower rate is fine, by all means - I imagine once the term starts you will be more pushed for time). In a way I'm quite happy to write fewer reviews than I did, having written so many! I like to write them still, but in terms of films, in particular, I have got to know many of them over repeated viewings over a number of years, and have lived with them. Most of those that have meant the most to me have now been covered, and I don't want to write about things I'm not so keen on except exceptionally, where I feel there is some bigger point than simply my not being very keen! It was for this reason that I wrote about Rust and Bone, for instance, to pinpoint a direction in French cinema that I think is worth discussing - and criticising! But you tend to get negative votes if you do this ... I seem to remember you saying that you think there are 1500 great films, more or less, which means you have quite an undertaking ahead if you want to get through all of them!?

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2014 03:07:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 31 Aug 2014 03:28:49 BDT
Film Buff says:
Dear Schumann - thank you for your very generous reply, your praise, and for bringing out some of the issues I raise in my review. This one has been lying seemingly unread for a long time with no votes and no comments! You have rectified that.

The key thing for me in Bunuel from his Mexican period is that he presents everything honestly, forthrightly, and (most importantly) without a hint of sentimentality. This last point is especially important with Los Olvidados because it is the thing that takes it beyond the sentimentality of Italian Neorealism. I do like the best of of those films (especially Rossellini's trilogy, Visconti's La Terra Trema and Ossessione and De Sica's Bicycle Thieves), but there is always the child as a kind of innocent judge looking at the harshness of adult existence and making the audience feel through them. However 'real' the films may be our emotions are still manipulated artificially through them to an extent. There is nothing of this in Bunuel. His children are as harsh and as wretched as the adults they virtually are. True as you say there are small epiphanies of innocence such as the milk washing over the girl's legs and the whole relationship between her and Pedro, but that only serves to make the final scene incredibly gut-wrenching. The body is thrown into a ditch and the girl shows no emotion whatsoever - it could even be a daily occurance in the slums of Mexico City.

The other thing I like about Bunuel is his complete lack of pretension while dealing with pretty big intellectual constructs. Both The Exterminating Angel (the greatest title for a film that I know of!) and Viridiana are harsh indictments of Catholicism, Francoism and of the Bourgeoisie done with the most amazing cristalline brilliance. I refer you to my reviews of them for a better explanation of this.

Black Narcissus - yes I agree here. Everything about the film is pretty amazing really, but the way it builds to a climax with the music score matching perfectly the visuals (of course it was composed exactly to the images as they played on a screen) provides a stunning aesthetic feast. Martin Scorsese is particularly fond of this sequence, and I'm sure for similar reasons. Perhaps it's not so much of a stretch to compare the way the film climaxes to music with the way Scorsese climaxes the action of both Good Fellas and Casino to rock music.

I liked your review of Ludwig. I will comment more fully there tomorrow if I may.

Yes, there are roughly 1,500 films out there that are worthy of shelf space in any given collection. I have two thirds of the number and am always alert to the others when they become cheap. I don't intend to review all of them of course. Many of the films on the list are commercial and have been reviewed enough. I love directors like Eastwood, Scorsese and Hitchcock, but these guys come low on my priority list for writing. I am more interested in giving people like Kieslowski, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Wong Kar Wai, Bela Tarr and Kiarostami more of a focus. I am also fond of silent film - an area grossly ignored by the majority of people. I have already 'done' most of Lang, but I also want to go into Herbier, Murnau, Gance, Eisenstein, Renoir, Dreyer, D. W. Griffith, Ozu and others. It strikes me it's best to throw light on forgotten or misunderstood great films rather than continue to push films which people already know and love.

OK, I will move onto Ludwig tomorrow, as well as start up on Ivan's Childhood...

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2014 16:14:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 31 Aug 2014 16:56:34 BDT
schumann_bg says:
Dear Film Buff, I'm very glad the postings are continuing! ... and here we do agree on the value of this film. I remember the scene with the milk, but not as clearly as I should. I've seen the film twice, but not very recently. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory: I hesitated for a second before voting for your review here, knowing that the effect would be leap over mine on the page. But then I realised this would be the right thing to do! (As I said before, please don't vote for any of mine or your votes will all be removed ... this for evermore!!) I've just been subject to a new attack in fact, with three negative votes left on the first page all at once, one on a very obscure re-release, and the other on a film for which no one else has a single negative vote, yet mine has been targeted twice in three days. But I try not to worry about it because the main thing is that the reviews are there pushing the things one wants to support. The trouble with new films, where this happens, is that it pushes your review to the bottom of the page or off the first page altogether, so that someone's meanness - I doubt whether they've even read it - means you won't even be read by anyone else, most likely.

Anyway, enough on this banality! A couple of random points from your reply: I also find Bicycle Thieves a bit sentimental. I do like Black Narcissus a lot but would take Pink Narcissus to my desert island before it. Do you know this underground gay classic? As a young man open to all life I imagine you might have seen it at the Scala (one of my haunts I forgot to mention) in the early days in London? In Black Narcissus I am amazed that the whole film is shot on a set, yet it is so atmospheric. Plus, it gives lurid a good name! I seem to remember the male lead running around in quite a short pair of shorts, which did not go unnoticed by the nuns at such high altitude, Deborah Kerr in particular ... Mind you they look like grandfather's canvas shorts next to the ones worn by Bobby Kendall in Pink Narcissus!

I also love silent film - Murnau being one of my favourites. I find Sunrise incredibly moving - and interesting in that it is a very romantic heterosexual film shot by a gay man, which is felt, I think. I haven't even heard of Herbier - but I'll read you when you write about him. Two others I love are Michael by Carl Theodor Dreyer (not the recent Austrian film abut a paedophile which I didn't like at all - how I dislike it when they steal a title like this - especially in this case), and City Lights. I know you don't like Chaplin too much, but that film surely has to touch everyone? The boxing sequence is one of the most inspired comic scenes ever filmed, for me.

I think you should aim to review as many of your list as possible - one should always aim high!

Your mentioning Kiarostami - a wonderful director - reminds me of The Story of Film by Mark Cousins. Do you know this book? I think it is the single most valuable book on film I've ever read. It is also available as a multi-disc DVD, in which you see all the excerpts, which I'm sure is a fantastic thing to watch, although it lasts 915 minutes! I went for the book because it meant I could read it without taking away from time spent watching films - plus I'm quite happy to look at the stills.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2014 02:55:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Sep 2014 03:37:38 BDT
Film Buff says:
Dear Schumann - Glad we can can agree on Los Olvidados and the value it continues to hold - I doubt slum conditions in Central/South American cities have changed that much from 1950, the year this film was made and Bunuel's masterpiece remains relevent. I have to confess I don't really care too much about my rating as an Amazon reviewer. If I did I certainly wouldn't spend my time writing about obscure art films which few see and I certainly wouldn't let my reviews sprawl as I do. I am aware my reviews are usually more like essays and few will actually finish reading what I have written. As I have said elsewhere I write mainly for myself - to think through logically my response to art. It is of course great if others can get something from them as well. For the moment I am determined to stick to film, but I am contemplating turning to opera DVDs, CDs and possibly even books in the future. Of course I do get a lift when I get positive feedback from people like your good self and it's wonderful to debate the finer points as well. On the other hand it's also a tad depressing when pieces I am proud of sit unvoted and uncommented on. I don't get too many negative votes, but I usually get burned when reviewing something that is commercial and/or is considered sacred (and therefore beyond criticism) by a large number of people. For example, I'm happy my pieces on Die Nibelungen and Spione have received a huge thumbs up, but wonder why my Metropolis piece received 4 negative votes and has therefore sunk without trace. As regards my voting on others, I do not seek to sabotage other reviewers and will give positive votes to those whose reviews may appear on the same page as mine - as I did with yours until you told me to stop. For me the art is the most important thing - we must try to keep the good reviews before the public eye whilst also of course getting rid of the many trite and superficial comments that don't even pass as 'reviews'. In this way both positive and negative voting are useful and should be utilized properly. I think on this point we can agree.

I'm sorry to say I've never seen Pink Narcissus. I did see a Genet film at the NFT at the time we are talking about. I could barely concentrate on it because of the short hard core gay porno that they screened unannounced before hand which I found disturbing beyond words. Still I have never let a director's sexual orientation get in the way of my appreciation of cinema - the issue is not important to me. A film can be great irrespective of what the director's sexual orientation is.

I haven't seen too much of Murnau or Dreyer, but what I have seen has inspired an interest in me to see more. l'Herbier directed a film called L'Argent which is generally highly touted and which I want to buy at some point. Just out of interest here are my top 10 silents (there are many key films which I have yet to see):

1. Die Nibelungen (1924, Fritz Lang)
2. The Man with a Movie Camera (1928, Dziga Vertov)
3. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Th. Dreyer)
4. Nosferatu (1922, F. W. Murnau)
5. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919, Robert Weine)
6. I was Born, But...(1932, Yasujiro Ozu)
7. Battleship Potemkin (1925, Sergie Eisenstein)
8. Un chien Andalou (1928, Bunuel/Dali)
9. Intolerance (1916, D. W. Griffith)
10. The Iron Horse (1924, John Ford)

I will check up the Mark Cousins film you mention. Kiarostami is an amazing director for me. Both A Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us are in my top 100. I have just finished reading one of the best films on cinema - Sculpting in Time by Andrey Tarkovsky. It is far more than an 'explanation' of the great director's films and addresses itself lucidly to the questions of the meaning of art, of cinema, of why we are here. I will be quoting liberally from it in my forthcoming Tarkovsky reviews.

I have two loose ends from our past comments I want to tie up:

1. The quote 'beauty can save the world' does indeed come from Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, however the meaning is far from clear. Prince Myshkin (the metaphor for goodness cast into a ruthlessly corrupt world of Russian high society) doesn't say this directly. It comes from another character - the unsavourary Ippolit, a nasty consumptive with not a good thing to say about anyone and who speaks through thick veils of sarcasm. It also comes as a question to the prince - 'did you not say that beauty can save the world?' So we don't know for sure if the prince said it or not, or if Ippolit is just being sarcastic. It does become clear in what Ippolit says after this that 'beauty' seems to equate with belief in a Christian God. Therefore one may substitute the word 'faith' for 'beauty'. It is very dangerous to 'interpret' Dostoyevsky especially when he's been translated. Of course divorced from its context, the quote is a rather wonderful positive statement which could be copied and stuck to one's fridge door or whatever!!

2. Regarding Haneke's Hidden I tried perhaps awkwardly to say that the central feeling of having to hide and lie to maintain one's equilibrium in everyday relationships is perhaps universal for everyone. I have just finished reading Murakami Haruki's new novel 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage' and quite apart from the title referring to the Liszt collection we both like so much (Le mal du pays in particular is important for the story), the main character has this to say: "No matter how honestly you open up to someone, there are still things you cannot reveal." (p.255) So true, and of course it is those 'things' which continually come back to bight you.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2014 23:56:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Sep 2014 01:31:37 BDT
schumann_bg says:
The Dostoevsky quote seemed so simple on the card - but it made a good card anyway, I think!

Mention of your top 100 reminds me of the rather low position of my no. 1 film ...! It's quite true that sexual orientation has no bearing on how great a film is, any more than the gender of the director, but it is interesting how these aspects do affect the sensibility that comes across in a given subject. At the risk of appearing contentious, I would say that since 2000 these two groups (women and gay people) have produced some of the most outstanding films, and have broadened the scope somewhat. In the first place, if you watch a film like Leaving, it is clear that this woman's story is being told from a woman's perspective - you can feel it in the intimate scenes, which have quite a different feel than we are used to, as well as the general tone. A film like The Kids Are All Right, equally, would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and is, I think, a great film, not just one with a good 'message', which is an overvalued aspect of film and more appropriate to propaganda than art. The film clearly reflects Lisa Cholodenko's experience and would have been impossible for a man to make in the same way. As for gay men, there have equally been a large number of films that reflect a kind of 'catching up' since 2000, because so much had not been possible for much of the history of the medium. If you look at the number of interesting films 'about' heterosexuality, I would say there have been far fewer over that period, because it is that much harder to do something original. And originality is a great motor in art!

Having said that, I do look out for all films that move me in their presentation of love that we might broadly call sexual. Sunrise certainly comes into this category and is superb - I urge you to see it if you haven't already. It has a magnificent Expressionist aesthetic, even though it was made in Hollywood. Equally, I love Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and find them profoundly engaging every time I watch them. It leads me to think there's no reason why any of us can't engage with these kinds of emotions regardless of gender or cultural background - they have so much that is universal, as long as the portrayal has the requisite depth. For this reason, I always like to think that I would be just as fond of the gay films I love even if I was not gay - or very nearly, in any case!

As regards the Haneke point, this is connected, of course ... I like to think one CAN say anything, but there are things one would not readily say because they are too embarrassing, perhaps? I sometimes feel, more generally, that it is not so much people knowing things that bothers me - students knowing that I am gay, for instance - but more the subject being discussed. On the other hand, I think so much is slightly awkward, really. As for moral things of the magnitude of Hidden, I don't think this applies to most people, really, but my feeling would be that if something is really bothering a person they probably would be better off trying to communicate with the person closest to them about it (as happens in the film, but only because he has no choice, really). After all, love is a pretty resilient thing if it is well-founded. It may take courage to do this, but part of the aim of a loving relationship is not to have barriers beyond those we can't get round as separate beings.

You might imagine that for me The Passion of Joan of Arc was far too drawn out in the stake scene ... I much prefer Michael which deals with a more inward suffering, and Gertrud as well. You haven't included The General, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari or Frank Borzage's Seventh Heaven (this last, a fantastic romance!), which I would have to have, as well as Der Letzte Mann and Faust by Murnau ... Isn't Intolerance supposed to be quite racist? I haven't seen it or a number of others on the list, I'm afraid ... Have you seen Fantomas?

Thank you for the response to Ludwig - perhaps I could answer tomorrow?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Sep 2014 01:08:20 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Sep 2014 02:16:31 BDT
Film Buff says:
Dear Schumann - don't be too offended by my low positioning of Fear Eats the Soul! I have probably seen too many films for my own good and could put together a top 500 if I put my mind to it. In my list I was aware of omitting so many of my favorite films. Put in that light 97 isn't a bad positioning! Everything in my Top 100 I consider essential cinema and you could say that order doesn't matter that much - if I list the other 9 films (90-100) you'll see how highly I rate the Fassbinder - 90. Heat (Michael Mann) 91. Written on the Wind (Sirk) 92. The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover (Greenaway) 93. Taxi Driver (Scorsese) 94. Scarlet Street (Lang) 95. Performance (Roeg/Cammel) 96. Raging Bull (Scorsese) 97. - 98. Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci) 99. The Hustler (Rossen) 100. The Thin Red Line (Malick).

You may well be right about women and gay film directors coming to the fore over the last decade or so. Unfortunately I am in no position to judge living in Japan where only the most commercial of Hollywood rubbish hits the big screen and even that comes out late! Films are released on DVD in the UK before they hit cinemas here. Also 'minority interest' films which unfortunately is the category films by women and gays come under are pretty much ignored here. I have to hunt hard in DVD shops to find certain titles. Consequently I feel well off the contemporary pace of cinema! You should appreciate how privileged you are living in London where you are in the thick of things and spoilt for choice. Also you are single and free. A married man with small kids I am somewhat limited in what and how much I can watch these days.

As you know I value a broad swathe of different films covering all kinds of things. Love stories are as attractive to me as any other genre, though perhaps 'genre' is too prejorative a word to use. I liked the Linklater films you mentioned and desperately want to see Sunrise one day. I have only seen 2 Murnau films - Nosferatu and The Last Laugh. Both are great and I am hungry for more! Anyway here are 10 of my favorite love stories: In the Mood for Love (sensational Wong Kar Wai), Voyage in Italy (Rossellini), Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks), Casablanca (inevitable Curtiz), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Kaufman), Letter from an Unknown Woman (Orphuls), The Remains of the Day (Ivory), No Regrets for our Youth (Kurosawa), The English Patient (Minghella), The End of the Affair (Jordan). I have already mentioned many of these and alas there are no gay films or films by women. Two gay love stories I really like though are Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee) and ? (the Tod Hainz film with Julliane Moore and Dennis Quaid whose title I forget!). It strikes me that the great 'love' stories are almost all invariably about lost or frustrated love. I have never taken to 'feel good' sentimental Hollyweird whimsy which manipulates the emotions so blatently it's unreal.

Haneke - this does depend on where one draws one's morals. They are different for all of us. In Hidden the character does a bad thing when he is young, lies about it, hides it and ultimately pays the price. Many of us will have done things which we regard as bad morally which are not as severe as what this character does, but we still pay the price on risk of disclosure. Morality isn't something set in gold - it is something we all have to determine for ourselves don't you think?

The Passion of Joan of Arc is a staggering achievement and though it is incredibly uncomfortable (virtually unwatchable at times), it deserves its place in the pantheon for its cinematic technique, its sheer intensity and its breathtaking performance from Falconetti. Again I am dying to see more Dreyer - I have only seen Vampyr of the others. Yes, I like Buster Keaton. I also appreciate Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy. Chaplin remains too calculated for my taste - though the final scene of City Lights is unforgettable. I need to see Fuillade (sp?) - not only Fantomas but also Les Vampires...Oh, Intolerance is not racist - that was Birth of a Nation, and look again and you will see The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari IS on my list. In fact I have a passion for the Weimar period and Expressionism in general - especially as filtered through Lang. I kept my list to one film per director, but could easily have added Spione and Dr. Mabuse as well. And what about Pabst? I saw Pandora's Box a long time ago and was wowed by it. There is so much out there to investigate so thank God for Masters of Cinema! Their releases are generally of the highest quality. It's a shame they are so expensive, and I will be buying them gradually...

I'll go to the Ludwig thread later...

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Sep 2014 03:08:02 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Sep 2014 03:34:54 BDT
schumann_bg says:
Dear Film Buff, I'm sorry I missed the Cabinet - I don't know how that happened as I did look at your list properly, but not at the moment of writing ... a superb film, though. The gay film whose title you forget is Far From Heaven, which I certainly like, but it doesn't quite satisfy, I don't think, as the surface is a little too immaculate combined with being a bit camp. It feels very unhappy but also too conventional - if knowing - as melodrama. I like Velvet Goldmine better, on balance - it is much more thrilling!

I don't really think of myself as single, by the way, having lived with my partner - for want of a better word - for 24 years!

Isn't The Last Laugh just amazing - I loved this film. I read that Emil Jannings had not acted quite as one might have hoped under the Nazis, which is a pity, because his performance in this and Faust - as Mephistopheles - is first rate.

I am slightly perplexed by your comments on the hidden meaning of Hidden! Whether morality is set in gold, I'm not sure - the basic precepts are, but the reality of how they are applied in everyday situations is relative, as are the countless small things we all have to deal with all the time. I didn't imply any point of view on this, though - I simply responded to your assertion that we all have things we keep to ourselves out of necessity, which I don't quite agree with, as I tried to say.

There are films about love which end happily, although there are certainly more where it is thwarted. Among the former: Minnie and Moskowitz (Cassavetes), A Woman Under the Influence (sort of), Maurice, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, The Green Ray, Ander (Catalan gay film), The Last Metro, My Beautiful Laundrette (the final splashing is happy, I think, even if one of them has just been beaten up) as well as Sunrise, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset - and Desert Hearts, a great lesbian film from the 80s, and even A Single Man, in a way. People often say about this film, for instance, that it's so sad, but I don't really find it so - more consoling, and taking us into the reality of what gives all our lives meaning, with particular force through its aesthetic aspects.

And The Dead - the end cannot be simplified as happy or sad - it is both. Above all, it moves us in its vision of life and its affirmation of this particular marriage. The point is, I think, that there is usually sadness mixed in, or difficulties, and in real life any love inevitably has sadness in the end when one partner dies. It is so much built in to the whole equation of life. Rather than look for happy endings, I tend to look for joy as it happens, as in life itself - as Blake said: He who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity's sunrise, but he who tries to hold on to it ... I cant remember the second part, but I'm sure you know the quote!

I would also say Letter To Brezhnev has a happy ending, but this depends entirely on the viewer - quite a good ending, but obviously a fairly light film!

Perhaps next time I could give a list of films by women or gay directors that I think are particularly essential?! We should probably discuss Ophuls, too ...

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Sep 2014 05:15:42 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 3 Sep 2014 06:22:57 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Sep 2014 01:30:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Sep 2014 11:59:56 BDT
schumann_bg says:
Dear Film Buff - Such a pity it got deleted (please see the Ludwig thread), as I was really wanting to read your answer ... never mind, perhaps you can summarise the key points?

I might hazard a list of films directed by women that I'd take to my desert island:

The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda's recycling documentary)
The Beaches of Agnes (Varda again, the best film autobiography?)
Tomboy (by Celine Sciamma: a young girl tries to pass herself off as a boy in her new environment)
Water Lilies (emotional ambiguities between teenage girls in synchronised swimming team)
Desert Hearts (woman getting a divorce in Reno discovers lesbian feelings),
The Kids Are All Right (lesbian parents),
Keillers Park (emotional Swedish thriller about gay men!)
After The Wedding (Danish drama about fatherhood and adoption)
Highly Strung (French film about classical piano and feelings between young women set in Lyon)
Hannah Arendt ( film about the German-Jewish intellectual and her coverage of the Eichmann trial)
Mamma Mia! (I know - but I can't help loving it!!)
Peter and the Wolf (best animation I've ever seen, by Suzie Templeton)

Some of these are not that well known, I have to admit - you may have read about Hannah Arendt recently? They all came out since 2000, except Desert Hearts.

I liked Brokeback Mountain very much when I first saw it, in fact I think I went three times in the first week it was released! Since then I have revised my opinion of it a bit, and now find it less good. Ang Lee is very good but I think it shows - that neither he nor anyone else involved on the project was gay. It shows you enough in terms of explicitness, but in terms of emphasis there is a sense that the love need not take up too much screen time, or it may put people off. The original story had far less about their marriages, an aspect which was beefed up to appeal to straight women, who, it was hoped, might take their husbands/boyfriends to the film and thus make up the box office takings. I can see the sense of this commercially, but it doesn't help it as a film about these two men. In fact, the problem is not so different from that in Death in Venice, where everyone was gay but it was still 'awkward' as a subject. A better film than BB on this theme is the Israeli film Eyes Wide Open, about the Hassidic Jewish community and two men within it who have a gay relationship. This has all the social context but is kept in closer focus and is much more compressed in time. Issues of family and social expectation are equally present, but the director is gay and somehow this gives it a different sense of authenticity and convincing tenderness. I'm a great believer in people making art from the inside, whatever it is about. That's why Cassavetes is so good on heterosexual relationships. It's not my own world, but I feel it as if it were!

I admire Ang Lee for having made two films about gay men when he isn't gay himself, though. He is a searching kind of director and shows great formal control!

I'll try to read and respond to your Tarkovsky review tomorrow or Saturday!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Sep 2014 07:06:57 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Sep 2014 07:08:48 BDT
Film Buff says:
Dear Schumann - Yes Far From Heaven was the title, a film I liked because of it's beautiful capturing of the 50s and the performances of Moore and Quaid. I imagine the situation of a man 'discovering' his homosexual impulses after he has married must be a fairly common one. I haven't seen Velvet Goldmine, but I will give it a whirl though I don't respond too well to camp. I like most of the films you mention which are love stories which end happily. I guess my favorite love stories all focusing on the loss of love say more about myself than whether they are better than ones that don't. The one film which I hated is A Single Man. I found it a very cynical attempt by Hollyweird to cash in on Colin Firth's Oscar-winning performance in The King's Speech. Julianne Moore is totally wasted in this film. Both Linklater films are rather special as you say and of course both Rohmer and Woody Allen can be relied on to send us out with a smile. We have gone into Rohmer before, but the best of Woody (Manhatten, Hannah and her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, Stardust Memories, Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose, etc) are all great films - much deeper than they at first appear. Yes, I have to revisit The Dead some time soon and then we can talk about it - I assume you know the James Joyce book fairly well. I'm afraid I won't be able to talk a lot about Orphuls as I've only seen Letter from an Unknown Woman - a conversation for the future.

All of the above was axed by Amazon yesterday - I trust this won't happen again! As for the immediate above, many thanks for the list of films close to your heart. I admire your bravery in admitting to loving Mamma Mia! I saw the show in London, but can't say I was impressed by the film. What a waste of a fine cast I thought, but then my wife loves it so what do I know? I liked Desert Hearts when I saw it a long time ago on C4, but I'm afraid I haven't seen any of the others you mention. Agnes Varda is a name to conjur with and I will possibly investigate when I get the chance. But if I do have an urge to go into gay cinema it will probably be Murnau first. Yes, I love The Last Laugh. I saw it a long time ago on VHS and now need to buy it on the MoC print. Those people do a marvelous job on silent films.

Brokeback Mountain should have won the Oscar that year. they ended up giving it to Crash (not the wonderful Cronenberg J. G. Ballard adaptation I hasten to add), a film which is nowhere near as good. Just like Far From Heaven it is a superb period film set in the 50s. Ang Lee is to be praised for tackling a multitude of different genres. How many others apart from Howard Hawks can lay claim to making an excellent period costume piece (Sense and Sensibility), a a stunning civil war western (Ride With the Devil), stunningly hilarious exposes on Chinese social mores (The Wedding Banquet, Eat Drink Man Woman), a superior soap opera (The Ice Storm), a pulp comic adaptation (Hulk), a political thriller with hard core overtones (Lust Caution) and a CGI children's story (The Life of Pi)? Extraordinary really. But, do any of these films make anyone's Top 10s? Probably not. But still, he is a superior mainstream director who rarely makes a bad film.

Lastly, of course you may already have noticed, but I have sent an e-mail to your address and you can delete the above if you choose. In my mail I have enclosed even more lists for you to ponder and perhaps respond to...

I look forward to your response to my Tarkovsky review. I am now turning my attention towards Andrey Rublyov...
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